The annual Comic Con in San Diego is the biggest convention of comics the world has to offer attracting fans from around the world. It's spawned similar events all over the country including the LA Comic Con that's held in October. But if you can't wait until then, or are looking for a more home-grown feel, there a brand new comic convention.
The first-ever East LA Comic Con is happening Saturday, May 20th and will feature a host of comic creators, ranging from big names to local artists, yet to be discovered.
Take Two’s A Martinez spoke with the event's creator, Peter Mellini. He runs Nostalgic Books and Comics in the city of San Gabriel. They were also joined by participating comic book artist and animator, Rafael Navarro.
Bringing a comic convention to East LA
Peter Mellini: For me, it’s a hometown show…. We’re in the heart of East LA. That was the hard part about putting this show on is that we wanted to find a place that was big enough that was actually in East LA. It’s a free event... which blows people’s minds.
Growing up a comic book fan in East LA
Peter Mellini: For the most part I had to go out of the city. We had to come out to Pasadena or Alhambra. Once we discovered Frank & Son – when you don’t drive that’s like a two-three hour bus ride.
A childhood dream come to life
Peter Mellini: Growing up, I wanted to do two things. I wanted to own a comic book shop and I wanted start a show. I bought a comic book store and this is the year I finally paid off the comic book store, so I was like, it’s time to do a show.
Growing up a Latino comic book fan
Rafael Navarro: Like many of us in the comic-dom, we grew up reading our Marvel comic books, our superhero characters. There was no, for lack of a better word, representation for who I was at the time. I could relate to people like Peter Parker and certain other aspects, but they just didn’t look like me. As I grew older and I grew a little more sophisticated about things, eventually, it began to bother me.
Let’s flash forward into the far, far future, I broke into comic books. I worked at Marvel myself but when it came to doing my own comic book, I didn’t want to just draw another Wolverine, or another Batman, or another Captain America at all. I just chose to dip into my own fountain of selfness. The fountain revealed, yes I am a Latino. I’m an American citizen of course but of Latino origins and I just needed to express that. So, comics became the medium to do that.
Rafael Navarro: My first monster– I call this my Boris Karloff Frankenstein monster, he still resides around the countryside there being persecuted by the villagers. His name is Sunambulo. I’ve been publishing him since 1994.
Sunambulo is a former masked Mexican wrestler who now resides as a private eye. He has these uncanny abilities to do certain things including reading your mind. Very surreal, very dreamlike qualities. In order for him to investigate what he needs to get out of people, he basically extracts their dreams from their mind. Sunámbulo in Spanish means sleepwalker.
East LA Comic Con: what to expect
Rafael Navarro: It’ll be like an all-you-can-eat sampler. There will be mainstream comic book related stuff, as well as independent comic book artists. Ranging from science fiction, to lucha libre, to thing that go bump in the night, so to speak. Various genres for various people, drawn by a plethora of artists who are offering a different perspective, and a different take on the typical square-jawed or swimsuit model superhero and heroine.
Peter Mellini: The big thing is going to be the local artists. We tried to get a lot of people from the area. And not just East LA but the surrounding Los Angeles area. There’s a few artists– this is their first comic book convention they’re going to be doing.
Rafael Navarro: It’s a great way to showcase new talent coming in.
Peter Mellini: Exactly. I think that’s the best part about it. The thing about San Diego is it’s gotten so big that I feel like you can’t really stop and talk to people. And with this show, I’m hoping – I feel like it’s going to be kind of crowded – but I’m hoping it does give the opportunity for people to actually talk to artists, get to meet them, and maybe get some commissions and stuff.
The funny thing is that this got way bigger way quicker than we expected. A lot of companies that we talked about eventually getting to like the El Rey Network, we were like, we’ll get to them in year three or 4… they approach us early on. That’s the crazy thing because it was suppose to be this small show but now we have the El Rey network involved and they’re sending talent from Lucha Underground to the show and we’re going to do a meet and greet with them. So, it’s a little mixture of everything.
Quoted edited for brevity and clarity
Saturday, May 20, 2017 |11 AM - 7 PM
El Gallo Plaza| 4545 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, East Los Angeles, CA 90022
To listen to the full interview with Peter Mellini and Rafael Navarro, click on the blue play button above.